The new Zulu king was formally enthroned as head of South Africa’s most influential traditional monarchy in Saturday’s glamorous ceremony attended by tens of thousands.
President Cyril Ramaphosa handed over a huge framed certificate officially recognizing the 48-year-old new ruler, Misuzur Zulu, in the coastal city of Durban.
“Our King is actually the official Zulu King and the only Zulu King,” said Ramaphosa to thunderous applause at the 85,000-capacity football stadium.
The king vowed to promote “peace and reconciliation” and “be a catalyst” for development.
The coronation of the ruler of the country’s richest monarchy came after a year-long court-filled battle for succession to the throne.
Misuzul ascended the throne after his late father, Goodwill Zwericini, who died in March 2021, ruled for more than 50 years.
The coronation, which follows the traditional coronation in August, is the first South Africa has witnessed in more than half a century.
“This historic moment comes only once in a lifetime. Many of us will never see this historic moment again,” said Ramaphosa.
Although the title of king does not confer executive power, the monarch wields great moral influence over the more than 11 million Zulus, who make up nearly one-fifth of South Africa’s 60 million population.
The Amabut, or royal regiment, wore traditional skirts, leopard skin tops, carried shields and sticks, and sang songs of praise to the king.
The women wore wide-brimmed Zulu hats and traditional wraps, singing and whistling as they slowly glided down the pitch.
Young girls in pleated skirts and beads in equally bright colors (some with bare breasts) dance and nod their heads in excitement at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament I was.
– “Great day for Zulu” –
Londro Dzung, 49, was among the women at the party. “We are very happy. More than that, we support the King 100 percent,” she told AFP.
Khaya Ndwandwe, a Zulu historian, said the government’s recognition of Misuzul as “the true king of the Zulus” meant that “the king would be more than a protector.”
“Today is a day of great joy for the Zulu,” said Ndwandwe.
The ceremony was broadcast live on all of South Africa’s largest television stations and media outlets.
Long gray feathers protruded from the king’s hair, and a bundle of black feathers was arranged behind his head as he sat on a throne covered in leopard skin.
Archbishop Thabo Maggoba, head of the Church of England in South Africa, dabbed holy oil on the hands, face and head of the king as a crowd watched.
“As you embark on your reign as king, I believe you are called upon to follow and emulate the highest traditions of your ancestors,” Maggoba said.
In his acceptance speech, the king pledged to work for progress as the world grapples with “poverty, unemployment, lack of trust in governments and traditional leadership, disasters from climate change, and economic collapse.”
Among its representatives is King Mswati III of Eswatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, who is also the uncle of the new Zulu king.
Two former South African presidents, Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki, were also present.
Zulu kings are descendants of 19th-century leader King Shaka. King Shaka is still revered for uniting large swaths of the country as the Zulus who fought bloody battles against the British colonizers.
After reigning for more than 50 years, King Twericini left behind six wives and at least 28 children.
Misuzul is the eldest son of his third wife whom Zwericini named regent in his will.
However, the Queen died suddenly a month after Zwericini, leaving a will appointing Misuzul as the next king.
The new monarch’s name means ‘strengthen the Zulu’, but his road to the throne was not smooth.